Uncoupling – When is the Final Handshake in an Illinois Divorce?

Illinois divorce lawyers, Illinois divorceYou would think that your divorce is over when your lawyer prepared and entered the final Judgment for Dissolution of Marriage in your case. You and your spouse can shake hands and go your separate ways.

You would think, “What's left is to divide the property in your agreement.” Simple, right?

However, even though you have a written Marital Settlement Agreement set forth in your Judgment stating who gets what items of property, you still have to divide things up. This can be a troubling time for divorcing spouses.

How Can You Make These Final Steps in an Illinois Divorce Easier?

1. Make sure ahead of time that your written Marital Settlement Agreement (MSA) sufficiently describes what each parties are to receive so that you and your spouse understand what is being divided and the MSA is also clear and complete. Therefore, if there is a dispute, it can be resolved easily and without argument.

Something as simple as dividing the personal property can become complicated when the MSA states, “The husband shall receive his tools.” The husband then proceeds to take the lawnmower, the snowblower, and every screwdriver out of the house—not your agreement or intention. Therefore, it is beneficial to have an itemized list attached to your MSA that specifically describes who gets what. Or, take pictures and simply identify which items a spouse is to receive.

2. Be complete and thorough in your list of personal property to be divided. If you simply say the Wife receives the home computer, does she also received the printer attached to the computer, the scanner, and the speakers? You get the idea: more specific equals less fighting.

3. Protect yourself if there has been a history of argument, contention, or acting out violently by word or deed by the other spouse. Then, make sure that you are safe when you or your spouse picks up items of personal property. If necessary, have the police or sheriff’s department there during the pick up. The sheriff or local police want to make sure that there is no violence or strife. Therefore, it is wise to inform them ahead of time if you have a concern.

4. Time limits—make sure that your final MSA gives time limits to accomplish things like the division of personal property. Such as “The Wife has 30 days from the date of the entry of the Judgment for Dissolution of Marriage to retrieve her personal property and if she does not do so the Husband may donate those items to charity or discard them.”

5. Define responsibilities—if your MSA provides for dividing a IRA, 401(k) or pension, try to make it the other side's responsibility to prepare the necessary Qualified Domestic Relations Order [QDRO] within a stated time. For example, “The Husband shall prepare and present to the Court the QDRO and all other documents necessary to divide the Husband's 401(k) to give the wife her 50 percent share within 60 days from the date of the entry of the Judgment for dissolution of Marriage.”

The Judgment should also state that if the Husband fails to have the QDRO approved and entered by the Court, then he is obligated to turn over to the Wife her share of his 401(k) account if he withdraws it or receives payments from it.

Each thing that is supposed to get done following your divorce should be specified in your MSA and provide which ex spouse is to perform the tasks necessary to accomplish it, when it will be done, and what, if any, penalty should be assessed if it is not.

6. Finish the division of assets as quickly as possible. The longer you linger the more likely it is that a dispute will occur. I know that it is difficult to want to face your ex again; however, many times, we see that assets are not divided, and years later a court case follows to accomplish what would have taken much less time and effort and considerably less money—just some of our cases where prior lawyers failed to follow these simple rules:

  • In re Marriage of Su: A domestic relations order was not entered; Wife collected her full pension payments, kept all of the payments, and failed to notify Husband that she was in pay status; there was no provision in the MSA stating that she is to turn over pension payments as she receives them.
  • In re Marriage of Val: Husband failed to turnover to Wife her share of the agreed stock options and pocketed both his and her share; Wife’s first lawyer said she had no case. However, we fought for her and obtained over $400,000 for her share of those options.

Speak with Our Skilled Illinois Divorce Lawyers Today

We have learned these simple and practical rules throughout many years of practice as domestic relations lawyers. At Martoccio & Martoccio, our skilled Illinois divorce lawyers have had many years experience. Not only can we get you divorced, but we will make sure that the details of the uncoupling and follow-up go smoothly, so that there is in fact a handshake with your spouse at the end. Feel free to contact us for a free consultation anytime.

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